The point earned in Vancouver by Crew SC pushes them that much closer to a playoff spot, but yes, three points would have helped more.
A different look
Kekuta Manneh may have gotten the start so that the team could rest Justin Meram. It also appeared a sentimental choice given his first return to Vancouver. Starting Manneh did give Crew SC a different dimension. With his blazing speed, the Vancouver defense had to respect his ability to beat people with his pace. That gave the needed space on a couple of critical moments. Manneh twisted Jake Nerwinski on his assist for Ola Kamara’s goal. It was also clear that the Whitecaps defense respected the wingers speed more than his shooting. Manneh had plenty of room to tag his 20 yard bomb that gave Crew SC the brief lead. He may not have gotten to use his speed in the open field, but it still made the difference in two key goalscoring chances
Pedro Santos comes with a solid pedigree and the expectations that comes with a record transfer fee. There have been small glimpses of Santos’s quality as he works in tight spaces or has an excellent interplay with Federico Higuain. However he was still more of a non-factor again in Vancouver. He made his longest Crew SC appearance to date at 83 minutes, but he really wasn’t an offensive threat. He had two shots, the closest being from 25 yards out. He wasn’t getting into dangerous positions to even test the Vancouver defense. It’s still early in his tenure, but it’s obvious that the adaption period is taking longer than anyone would have hoped.
Santos wasn’t the only Designated Player to struggle. Federico Higuain had 10 passes in the final third. He would help build possession, but when Crew SC got close to goal, the space would dry up. Vancouver had an plan to limit the dangerous Argentine playmaker and executed well. Pipa has been on a tear since coming back from injury, but the Columbus offense didn’t revolve around Higuain. Luckily Manneh and Kamara were able to step up and make the plays when they needed to be made on offense.
Abu and Artur’s tag team
The game was physical and referee Silviu Petrescu was apparently going to call a tight game. That meant that Mohammed Abu picked up an early card. His foul didn’t appear to be anything specific other than Petrescu appeared to tag him for a team wide persistent infringement. It really appeared a bit unlucky. The card did prompt Gregg Berhalter to lift Abu at halftime for Artur. The game suited Artur more. He’s a more physical player and one who is at home covering space and stopping up play.
That center back depth
Nicolai Naess was transferred due in part to the depth that the team has in the back. That was tested over the weekend with Jonathan Mensah suspended. Lalas Abubakar was brought into the lineup to pair with Josh Williams and he wasn’t as solid as he had been over the summer. Yordy Reyna especially gave the rookie fits as Abubakar was forced into more one on one defending situations. Abubakar has really shined when Crew SC were in a back three. Likewise Alex Crognale has performed admirably in the back three. Columbus has to hope the rookies continue to adapt to the back four and Jonathan can stay error free while on the field.
Crew SC had done well down the stretch to limit the danger. Vancouver was often forced to shoot from distance with low percentage chances. The defense had played well enough during the final 20 minutes to be rewarded with a victory, but it was the extra time that proved the undoing. The team defense just collapsed as there was no pressure after the clearance, Freddy Montero was left entirely unmarked on the far side of the box and Hector Jimenez and Justin Meram scrambled to try and deal with the developing danger. It was not the steady play that had held the lead until deep into stoppage time.
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